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Inmate at Terry County, Texas Jail Commits Suicide

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Interior of solitary confinement cell with metal bed desk and toilet in old prison

The Terry County Sheriff’s Department, in Brownfield, Texas, recently filed a custodial death report with the Attorney General of Texas regarding the death of Rodney Shane Howard.  Mr. Howard was only 32 years of age at the time of his death.  We provide information obtained from that report, and we make no allegation of any wrongdoing against anyone related to Mr. Howard’s death.

On September 12, 2019, at approximately 8:30 p.m., a jailer was making rounds and looked into the cell in which Mr. Howard was housed.  The female jailer saw what appeared to be Mr. Howard hanging in the shower stall.  The jailer called for help, and she and another jailer entered the cell. 

EMS was called, and the female jailer went to the control room to get a tool to cut Mr. Howard down.  After EMS arrived, Mr. Howard was transferred by ambulance to the Brownfield Regional Medical Center.

Mr. Howard was stabilized.  However, he had apparently suffered significant brain damage.  Charges against Mr. Howard were dismissed, and his family was notified, on Monday, September 16, 2019.  Mr. Howard was removed from life support on Monday, September 23, 2019, and he passed away the following day. 

The report indicates that an autopsy will be conducted.  Our law firm finds that it is typical in such deaths for the Texas Rangers to conduct an investigation.  The Texas Rangers typically conduct such an investigation for any potential criminal conduct related to the death.  Thus, Texas Rangers do not investigate an incident to determine whether anyone has civil liability.

Without regard to Mr. Howard’s situation, as a general matter, pre-trial detainees in Texas county jails have rights to reasonable medical care, reasonable mental healthcare, and to be protected from themselves and others.  If an inmate is suicidal and/or likely to harm himself, jailers and counties have constitutional obligations to act.  They cannot be deliberately indifferent and/or act in an unreasonable manner.  If they do, there can be liability for such constitutional violations.  Such lawsuits are typically brought in federal courts.

Written By: author image Dean Malone
author image Dean Malone
Dean Malone is the founder of Law Offices of Dean Malone, P.C., a jail neglect civil rights law firm. Mr. Malone earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Dallas, graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA, and from Baylor University School of Law with a general civil litigation concentration. Mr. Malone served in several staff positions for the Baylor Law Review, including executive editor. Mr. Malone is an experienced trial lawyer, trying a number of cases to jury verdict and also handling arbitrations through final hearing. He heads the jail neglect section of his law firm, in which lawyers litigate cases involving serious injury and death resulting from jail neglect and abuse. Lawyers frequently refer cases to Mr. Malone due to his focus on this very complicated civil rights practice area.